What Do You Do?

It’s a harmless question, but one I’ve really learned to dislike. The question may as well be, ‘How much money do you earn so I can categorize you?’. Then when I mention what I ‘do’, and this happens less and less as we thankfully continue to evolve as a society, I may get an apologetic look followed by a comment that sounds something like, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll find something’. I’ve already found something apart from writing at least an article a day, which is looking after my two boys when their mother is at work. Or when she’s home for that matter as being a parent does not obey the rule of the eight hour work day, unfortunately.

It’s not often I’m fortunate enough to receive such words of encouragement, and this only happens when I’m speaking to someone who is most likely either not overly bright, or more likely very insecure. Perhaps a decent helping from both columns once or twice, but no matter how well adjusted I like to think I’ve become, it still bothers me.

Mostly I think it’s because I feel like I’m being judged somehow. Being judged to be less of a man because I don’t answer investment banker or astronaut when asked what I ‘do’. I mean I’m a writer who is focused on raising the next generation, who happen to be my own offspring, so I guess maybe it’s at least sort of like having a job that I can hang my name from. The job of parenting is a thankless job which pays absolutely nothing of monetary value, but I’ll happily accept the payment it does bestow. Even on those days that my five year old, all too honest as children are, let’s me and anyone within earshot know that I’m his second favorite parent. He means that as a compliment, although when he gets to his teenage years I’m sure his intentions may be different.

Maybe all of this is just my own insecure inner dialogue. I guess there’s the possibility that I don’t feel I measure up to the definition of man in my own mind. To be honest it does get difficult to relate to being in the trenches of the World Wars with my forefathers as I’m playing with building blocks, but even with that shadow of doubt I sometimes cast upon myself it’s still not a job I would ever quit.

Although I could be very wrong about this, I have an inkling that I share some of these feeling not only with other stay at home parents, but members of the new economy. By that I mean those that have been forced to take on a different role in their workplace, those that have had to find new employment, and also those that now work from home. It’s that last demographic I feel the most similarities with, but the other two groups as well to a lesser degree.

What on this earth does this have to do with fitness or dieting, and the wondrous world of weights? I’m getting there, just hang on a little longer. I was going to say that in those moments that I question my masculinity regarding my choice in career, and those moments are few, I sometimes wonder if that’s why I work as hard at the gym and stick to my diet as closely as I do. Am I trying to show others that I’m still a man underneath all of this baby puke? Or worse, am I trying to prove that fact to myself?

Oddly enough, it’s in the gym that I’m most accepted for being me. Now maybe I only attract those that are open minded like myself, but the people I train with and joke around with the most seem to care less about my chosen profession.

Which got me thinking about the age old stereotype most likely held by some of those that probably have never set foot in a gym. A place full of grunting dullards whose only interests are muscles, cars, and discussing their make believe sexual conquests. Don’t get me wrong, what gym would be complete without at least a few of these characters, but the modern gym is as accurate a cross section of society as a busy shopping mall.

All kinds of people from all kinds of different backgrounds. It’s no longer an intimidating dungeon inhabited by men stuck in the glory years of male chauvinism. The gym almost became my cathartic refuge from the cruel world of judgment based upon what method of earning money you choose. I felt like when I was there, I was accepted at face value for who I was and not what I ‘do’.

It’s that feeling of inclusion in the big bad world that as a stay at home parent, mom or dad, you need to be a part of. I’m going to include those that work from home in this conversation too. There’s something similar there with a stay at home parent as you do the work, but without the camaraderie. It’s very easy to get caught up living the life of nothing but a facilitator, and in doing so you lose yourself in the isolated little bubble of your home office just like raising your children.

It’s a nice and comfortable place, but a lonely one too. You need to continue to be yourself, to develop yourself, and to stay socially active. Before I rediscovered the gym there were periods of time when my days would pass with little or no adult conversation, and to be quite honest, that’s a tough place to exist for anyone.

You have to find ways of keeping a piece of yourself because by doing so you become a better you. When you’re a better you you’re also a better parent, partner and friend. There are plenty of great excuses to wallow in parenthood and accomplish nothing of any significance in the name of raising your children, but you owe it to those around you, and more importantly to yourself to keep that person you were before you had kids, or began working from home, healthy and happy.

There is no better place to achieve everything that I’ve just talked about with you than in the gym, or any other kind of structured exercise environment. Jogging with friends, swimming at the community centre or joining a rec league baseball or basketball team are also ways to get together with others to keep that part of you thriving while you continue to grow in other areas related to parenting or working from home. If you follow this example I think you’ll find that you end up being capable, and capable of being more than you ever thought you could be. Be proud of what you ‘do’, no matter what it is that you do. There is only one you, and that’s the most you’ll ever be able to offer anyone. Until next time then,

Happy Lifting.

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